Award-winning CBS News veteran Maria Mercader died of COVID-19 in a New York hospital on Sunday, the network announced.
She was 54.
The Manhattan native, who covered breaking news for CBS since joining the network in 1987, had been on medical leave for an unrelated matter when she was infected, the network said while confirming her death Sunday.
Dan Rather called the loss a “hard hit to the heart.”
“A paragon of grit and grace, she embodied the best of the @CBSNews mission. Millions of Americans learned of the world through her efforts. Now our world is less with her loss,” he tweeted.
CBS News president Susan Zirinsky called Mercader — who had battled cancer for more than 20 years — a “warrior” and a “gift we cherished.”
“Even more than her talents as a journalist, we will miss her indomitable spirit,” Zirinsky said. “Maria was part of all of our lives.”
The network’s senior vice president of talent, Laurie Orlando, also called her “a friend to all.”
“It’s nearly impossible to be someone EVERYONE loves, but Maria was,” Orlando insisted. “She always had a warm hug, a word of advice or support and a big smile for everyone in her life. She was a bright light and will be sorely missed.”
Mercader, who lived in Manhattan, had attended the all-girls Dominican Academy in Manhattan before graduating from the College of New Rochelle in 1987. At CBS, she helped produce many of her era’s biggest news stories, including the death of Princess Diana and the 9/11 terror attacks, CBS said.
She won a Business Emmy in 2004 for her work on a “CBS Sunday Morning” report on computer spam.
“Maria was one of the bravest, funniest, and most supportive colleagues most of us have ever known,” said Al Ortiz, the network’s vice-president of standards and practices .
Mercader is survived by her father and brother — both of whom are named Manuel, CBS said.